Text by Anil Chitrakar

The Buddha was born in Lumbini and was named Siddhartha at birth – the one who seeks to fulfill (siddha) the meaning    of life. Siddha also refers to a person who has mastered a particular skill or attained great and unique powers. As the story goes, young Siddhartha was shielded from the outside world and given all the luxury that the world had to offer till the age of 29. It is said that the astrologers who came to bless the new born baby wept because they were too old to live for long enough to “hear the teachings of Siddhartha”. Was it that the astrologers saw the boy become a sage at birth?  Or was it the fact that Siddhartha’s mother Mayadevi passed away just seven days after his birth that influenced him to question the true meaning in life? Oral tradition tells us that young Siddhartha was a loner and did not like the “cruel games“  that his cousins and friends played and enjoyed. There is the popular event where young Siddhartha saved the life of a bird/ crane wounded by his cousin Devadatta.

It is also told and retold that Yasodhara’s choice to marry Siddhartha became so controversial that the decision was made to hold a horse riding and archery competition among the suitors. Everyone thought the young Siddhartha would not stand a chance with them despite the declared choice of the bride to be. Sidhhartha won all the categories and married Yashodhara.  They had a son Rahul. With all this and every desire and want behind him, Sidhartha was not happy and decided to finally go beyond and the walls of his luxurious life and see the world for himself. His chariot driver and trusted friend on the trip was Chhana or Chanddak. It is said that Siddhartha saw four things that left an ever lasting impression on him – a very sick person crying in pain, an old person stooping and walking with the support of a stick, a dead body wrapped in cloth being taken in a procession for cremation, and the sight of a sage meditating in peace. Siddhartha was now determined to find the true meaning (artha) of life. He wanted to find out why life was suffering, and how suffering could end. At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his home, family and began six very difficult years of meditation, leading the life of a sage.  The sage of the Shakya clan is referred to as the  Shakyamuni.

In order to get to Lumbini (which is in Nepal) one must drive for a while on the 180km long Siddhartha Highway that connects the border town of Sunauli and  Bhairahawa. From here the Siddhartha Highway goes on north to Butwal, Palpa, Waling and on to Pokhara. It is said that long before the highway was built with Indian assistance, the British sent in scouts to find a way to attack and take over Nepal. The soldiers would barely make it past the malaria infested jungle and come to the footsteps of the hills. They are said to have reported back:  “There is nothing but wall”, and hence the town got its name Butwal. The Siddhartha Highway climbs past these walls, climbs up to Palpa and goes all the way to Pokhara – fulfilling its aim or meaning too. Today Siddhartha is a common first name and very popular too. There is an art gallery named Siddhartha, a management firm, a bank and many more.